Day 24 of the A to Z Challenge – X. Yes I know technically exposure begins with an E but it sounds like an X and it is something I want to write about:)
You might be thinking, well of course she wouldn’t like it, making herself sick but that isn’t just what I mean here. I fall out with exposure therapy for emetophobia for a number of reasons. I’m not saying that exposure doesn’t and won’t work for other phobias and for some aspects of emetophobia. I’m not saying all exposure therapy is a bad idea for emetopobes. The concept of exposure for “regular” phobias makes sense to me. For emet, I believe it is limited. And I know many would disagree with me. Hell, I’ve even had this argument with numerous therapists. I just don’t think a “one size fits all” approach works. Emet is incredibly complex and often comprises many other issues, from anxiety, OCD, to social phobia and eating disorders. Put it this way, you wouldn’t ask a person afraid of death to go kill themselves as a way to “expose” themselves to death. And this is why I don’t believe exposure is particularly helpful for emetophobia.
I think it depends on what stage you are at with your emet. For example I am fortunate that my emet hasn’t been so bad that I couldn’t write the word vomit or draw a stick person with a line coming out of his mouth. And believe me, I have known people in the past who have had emetophobia to this extent. For these reasons, basic exposure programmes can be good for slowly introducing things like this. For me though, exposure such as watching videos of people being sick has had zero impact. I actually find it is suggestive in terms of what foods I should next avoid, depending on colour of the vomit.
I’ve also been sick numerous times, thus “exposing” myself, admittedly not in any controlled environment. But making oneself sick and vomiting through sickness or alcohol are a completely different kettle of fish. And this is why I don’t think making yourself sick can help you get over emet. When I have actually been sick, I find the nausea, extreme panic, pacing, scratching, shaking, crying and the waiting is far far worse than the actual process of being sick. I always try to keep this in mind too but the memory soon fades. Vomiting just strengthens my feelings towards being sick – that it’s evil and nasty and I’d do anything to prevent it from happening in the future.
What are your experiences with exposure as a form of therapy? Have you tried it? How did you get on?